Steamed Mussels over Angel Hair Pasta
One of our favorite meals, especially for a leisurely weekday dinner, is steamed mussels over angel hair pasta. Here in coastal Maine, we can buy a 2 pound sack of locally grown mussels for several dollars, which makes this simple meal as affordable as delicious. Though the mussels are rather straightforward, the steaming process brings out a complex flavor in the mussels. I just enjoy eating them straight from the shells, they are so delicious. Steaming them in white wine — we have discovered that Sauvignon Blanc is the best option — imbues them with a subtle tanginess that compliments the mussel flavor well. And serving them over angel hair with fresh chopped tomatoes looks beautiful and is a complete, one dish meal — especially for Alicia and I, who will eat seafood at every opportunity.
I have great memories of eating mussels as a child, and it is rewarding and nostalgic to make them so well and so often. Alicia and I make this dish once every few weeks, and are always blown away by the complex flavor, not to mention the supreme ease of preparation. I have a strong preference to recipes that are straightforward, with a simple list of ingredients that allows the flavors to resonate deeply. And page 619 in Mark’s How to Cook Everything is worn well and covered in my scrawl, the mark of a great recipe!
When cooking with mussels, it is important to keep them cool. Alicia and I discovered with horror last week, after walking back from the grocery store in an intense heatwave that hit southern Maine, that our mussels had died and opened up. Sort through the mussels, discarding any that are opened or cracked, these are dead. With the living closed mussels, rinse them under cold running water and remove any algae “beards” that might cling to the mussels. Washing them well will remove any gritty sediment that will make the seafood experience a little too reminiscent of the beach for my tastes.
A lot of the taste and texture of this recipe varies with how long the mussels are steamed. When checking the pot, you will want them to have opened recently, and a few not at all. If they are open too long they will be overcooked and tough. The steaming process should take no more than 5 to 10 minutes.
Steamed Mussels with Tomatoes
adapted from Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything, serves two
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 large shallot, chopped
- a generous 1/2 cup dry white wine (we prefer Sauvignon Blanc)
- 2 pounds mussels, well washed
- lemon wedges for serving, and juice to cook with
- 1 chopped tomato
- Bring a pot of salted water to a boil, add the angel hair pasta and cook until al dente.
- Put the oil in a saucepan large enough to hold all the clams or mussels over medium heat. When hot, add the shallot and cook, stirring occasionally, until it begins to soften, 5 minutes.
- Add the wine generously, along with any lemon juice to your preference. Add the mussels, turn the heat up to high, and cover the pot. Cook, shaking the pot occasionally, until they all (or nearly all) open, about 5 to 10 minutes. Turn off the heat.
- Serve the pasta onto plates, and serve a few mussels atop, pouring some of the broth over as well. Add some chopped tomatoes to the dish, and sprinkle with lemon, to taste.